Tom Colicchio

Did Otto steal the lychees? Tom looks into the case.

on Oct 25, 2006

As an avid (ok, obsessed) fly fisherman, I feel a reverence for fish -- the fresher the better. One of my favorite things to do as a young chef was head down to the Fulton Fish Market in the pre-dawn hours to choose fish for my first NYC restaurant, Mondrian. The market was a rough-and-tumble place, but I learned from the experts how to judge the freshness of a fish (look for unclouded eyes) and to distinguish fish that has been well-handled from fish that has been thrown about (bruising the flesh) and fish that was caught only hours ago from fish that has lived for weeks packed in ice while the boat was out at sea. I felt bad waking the chefs up before dawn -- especially because my forays down to the fish market usually happened after a night in the kitchen (and subsequent pub crawl), while I was weary but not yet comatose. Our chefs put on a brave face, but after only a couple hours of sleep, they were clearly hurting. When our chefs were asked to create a sushi dish for their Quickfire challenge, we knew we were asking most of them to step outside their own cultural milieu. That said, I think it was a worthwhile challenge -- especially for this early in the season -- because it would give us a chance to assess the chefs' adaptability, their knife skills, and their knowledge of other cuisines.